All about the Braves and baseball events.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Furman Bisher Strikes Yet Again

Like screaming at a wall, I'm here once again to dissect one of the senior sports writer's articles. This time, the premise is...


... that the Braves should show more patience with Jeff Francoeur!

*ba dum pish!*

Sorry, that wasn't supposed to be a joke. Before we delve into Mr. Bisher's article, I'd like to point out Jeff Francoeur's current statistics, after finishing a 1-5 day against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He will be compared with the eight regulars in the Braves' starting lineup, who all lead the team in plate appearances at this point.

203 PA (1st of 8)
.250 AVG (6th of 8)
.271 OBP (8th of 8)
.344 SLG (6th of 8)

It's pretty bad when he's that low in production. Only Kelly Johnson (.247) and Jordan Schafer (.210) are worse in batting average. Schafer (.296) and Garret Anderson (.327) dwarf Francoeur in slugging. That also speaks to how bad the Braves outfield is in general.

Now here are Francoeur's regular stats:

49 G (T1st of 8)
192 AB (1st of 8)
24 R (T2nd of 8)
48 H (T1st of 8)
5 2B (8th of 8)
2 3B (T1st of 8)
3 HR (5th of 8)
23 RBI (3rd of 8)
66 TB (T3rd of 8)
5 BB (8th of 8)
30 SO (2nd of 8)
It seems as if he's one of the better regulars, but that is because Francoeur has played in every game this year. Thus, it's not unusual for him to be leading the team in hits or be one behind the lead in RBIs (Casey Kotchman and Yunel Escobar have 24 RBIs each). With that in mind, let's dive into the world that is Furman Bisher's articles:

These are disheartening days for the Braves. For Jeff Francoeur in particular. For those who came to Turner Field to cheer him, but now who jeer him. When Mark Bowman, of, wrote that this might be a pertinent time to consider locating another employer for him, oh, did that set off a firestorm! A flurry of conjecture.

Trade Jeff Francoeur? Homegrown hero? Onetime Sports Illustrated cover boy? Where did it all go?
In the dustbin of Braves history, right beside Brad Komminsk and Andres Thomas.

Let me take you back to those Camelot days, when the Braves’ roster was plump with bright young prospects. There was a pod of them, all seeming to ripen at the same time. A sort of an informal Boy Scout troop of them, who went to each other’s weddings, and celebrated their togetherness like club members.
Yeah, funny how winning makes everything seem all hunky-dory and buddy-buddy and Knights of the Round Table-y.

I'm sure they were friends, but that only goes so far in them helping their team win ballgames. The Baby Braves days these same days were ones where the Braves were grasping at straws in order to remain in the playoff hunt. This was the final year they managed to grab some. Their young guys all produced at the same time and the Braves rode that to the NL East championship. The pennant was well-earned, and they didn't deserve to be kicked out the playoffs the way they were (Darn you, Chris Burke and the home run I never saw on TV when it was happening).

Cue the "But..." paragraph...

Remember their names, for some are long gone.
AGH! Not now!

Oh, well. Who were those guys?

Francoeur, Brian McCann, Macay McBride, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Langerhans, and two Canadians, Pete Orr and Scott Thorman.
So we have:

  • The Braves' current right fielder
  • The Braves' All-Star catcher
  • A former reliever that wasn't even that good in his rookie season.
  • The Braves' current second baseman.
  • A former outfielder who started out well in a platoon role in his rookie year, but later fizzled out so badly that he was traded twice in a span of a week.
  • A hustling infielder who was playing over his head and it worked for a while; he still has a pro career.
  • A slow-swinging first baseman who couldn't hit anything more than a belt-high fastball and that dashed his dreams of becoming another Adam LaRoche.
Two out of six isn't so bad. Yes, I said two. Moving on...

McBride, traded to the Tigers, is recovering from arm surgery at Toledo.

Orr and Langerhans are working on the Nationals’ farm team at Syracuse.
As they should be; they're both not that good.

Thorman has sort of disappeared from the screen.
Sort of?? The guy's done.

And we all know where McCann, Johnson and Francoeur, the subject of the moment, are,

and of the three, McCann was the only unrated prospect in his early days on the farm. Remember?
Now, why do I feel like I'm being talked down to? Well, whatever the case, the idea that McCann was "unrated" at the time is nonsense. That very year, in 2005, the Baseball America Handbook has McCann rated as the third-best prospect in the Braves organization, ironically behind Francoeur and Andy Marte.

When the Braves offered both McCann and Francoeur long-range contracts last year, McCann took it and is signed through 2012.
And it is money well invested. McCann is well on his way to being a four-time All-Star in his first four full pro seasons and is pretty much the best catcher in the National League.

Francoeur played the odds, and banked on going to the arbitration
table calling his shots. His timing couldn’t have been worse. What followed is the season of remission.
It serves him right, and the Braves were fortunate that he was aiming for more money. Imagine what would have happened if he signed a contract similar to McCann's; Braves fans might have been calling for Jeff's head sooner because he would be getting multiple millions of dollars to suck.

He heard sounds coming from the stands at Turner Field he had never heard before. Boos and taunts, mild at first,
Poor baby.

but for a local favorite who had reaped nothing but adulation through high school at Parkview and two-and-a-half gaudy seasons with the
Gaudy??? If you call two seasons where you have 507 and 477 outs, amounts only leadoff hitters should have, "gaudy", then be my guest.

Where had it all gone?
I told you: in the Braves dustbin of history. See? It's right under my desk. I think I need to make a little more room beside Chief Noc-a-homa right there...

Meanwhile, McCann was harvesting a national following for his bat, and for his backstopping. Most of it. You could steal a base on him, and he was no adagio at blocking low pitches. But he could hit, and so could Ernie Lombardi, whose career wasn’t based on backstopping.
McCann isn't exactly a modern Ernie Lombardi; he has improved in his defensive skills since his rookie year. I daresay he may be improved tenfold since then.


Wait a minute, I thought this article was supposed to be about Jeff Francoeur. Why aren't you talking about him?

But in the case of Francoeur, you ask where did it all go?
No, I ask "Where was it all in the first place?"

Home runs, RBIs, and yes, strikeouts, as well?
I don' think Francoeur's strikeouts have disappeared completely. If it wasn't for Jordan Scahfer, Francoeur would be the team leader.

Last season it seemed the rest of the league had caught up with Francoeur’s habits, and what developed was a bottom-line .239 batting average and a mere 11 home runs. He didn’t strike out as often, but that was because his patience ran low and he swung at anything early and often.
Francoeur's strikeout percentage has actually decreased steadily over his career. He's making more contact, it's just that his swing and approach are so bad that most of his contact results in weak outs.

While the Braves spent all manners of time waiting for two dear old relics to return to their days of pitching glory, patience ran low with Francoeur.
This doesn't make any sense. You can't compare two forty-year old pitchers coming back from injuries to a struggling young outfielder who is (assumingly) healthy and playing.

Besides, they weren't waiting for John Smoltz; they let him walk to the Red Sox because they'd give him more money to not pitch. Also, please don't get me started on how much of a mistake it is to let the "dear, old relic" that is Tom Glavine get a chance to end his career on a good note for his own ego.

Was it because he had taken off to Texas in hope that Rudy Jaramillo, the Rangers’ hitting guru, might help him return to glory? It was furtively done, and true, he also recommended Andruw Jones try the same “cure.” It has worked out better for Andruw.
No, it is not because Francoeur went to Jaramillo for help. In fact, I would wager a lot of Braves fans applauded that move. The problem is that Francoeur is such a poor batter that he can't implement Rudy's teachings. As for Andruw, his career was literally down the crapper, so he did everything he could to get it back. It has paid off for him so far.

Francoeur now finds himself the subject of trade speculation. From hometown hero to hometown trade bait, perish the thought. I can’t see it. His market value has reached GM level.
There's another equally attractive option: designate him for assignment and release him. Let some other team take on the headache of trying to fix him. Let some other organization try to find the potential that once oozed out his ears.

Is there not enough patience to help him work his way through it? Whoever thought it could come to this for Jeff Francoeur.
The Braves suffered through one season of very sub-par production and it seems to be continuing two months into this season. Why continue to work with him when it's clear that he's getting nowhere fast?

(In closing, let me apologize for referring to John Smoltz and Tom Glavine as “relics.” But it takes one to know one.)
At least you know what you are, Mr. Bisher. :)

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